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New Year's Honours list rewards incredible Chester volunteers

Annual recognition of those who have made outstanding contributions to their community

Lee Firman - MBE

RNLI operations manager Lee Firman, from Chester, has been awarded an MBE

Royal National Lifeboat Institution volunteer Lee Firman has been recognised with an MBE for services to the RNLI in the New Year's Honours.

Lee, from Chester, has devoted more than 20 years of his life to the charity and saving lives at sea.

Now the RNLI’s divisional operations manager, he is believed to have been its youngest ever coxswain.

The 39-year-old was praised for ‘pursuing excellence in everything he does’.

Lee said: “I am immensely honoured and humbled, this isn’t just for me but it recognises the commitment of my family, giving me the time to volunteer and allowing me to be part of the RNLI for so many years.”

“It is also testament to the commitment and support from the thousands of volunteer crews and fundraisers that have helped me achieve what I have and continue to do their bit in helping to save lives at sea.’

Lee, whose father was also a coxswain, has been involved with the RNLI all his adult life after joining the crew at Aldeburgh in Suffolk at the age of 17.

Six years later he became the crew’s helmsman and then the youngest to become a coxswain in the charity’s 192-year history.

His leadership ability has been shown through several large and challenging rescues including rescuing a crew of four from the yacht Rosebank in appalling weather conditions on May 28, 2000.

Beyond his operational duties Lee’s personable nature and dedication to the volunteers comes across strong providing pastoral care and support to crews and volunteers in times of distress and tragedy and this has led him to be a driving force in championing a national standard of mental wellbeing training.

RNLI chief executive Paul Boissier said: “I am extremely happy that Lee has been recognised with an MBE.

“He is a modest and reserved character but has the ability to lead and motivate those around him. This firm but fair leadership has shone through since his promotion to operations manager in 2015.

“He is an individual who does not shy away from difficult decisions but pursues excellence in everything he does and this honour is thoroughly deserved.”

Neil Large - MBE

Liverpool Heart and Chester Hospital chairman Neil Large, from Hargrave, has been recognised with an MBE

A Chester health executive who is the Liverpool Heart and Chester Hospital chairman has been recognised in The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

Neil Large, from Hargrave, has been awarded an MBE for services to the NHS.

He oversaw the LHCH become the first specialist trust in the country to be rated ‘Outstanding’.

The father-of-two has also dedicated more than 20 years of volunteering as a former trustee of Tarporley Cottage Hospital and currently with The Hospice of the Good Shepherd.

Neil said: “I was humbled when I first heard the news, however it’s a great privilege to be given the award.”

“Since starting at Leighton Hospital back in 1972, I have been proud to work for, and with, many good people at all levels throughout the NHS during the past 45 years, including many wonderfully skilled and compassionate colleagues who provide hands-on care on a daily basis to patients and their families.”

Neil’s career includes work as the chief executive of both the Chester Health Authority and Cheshire Family Health Services Authority.

Before joining Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, Neil was director of finance at the Cheshire and Merseyside Strategic Health Authority.

After starting as a non-executive director, Neil became the trust’s chairman in 2009.

Under his guidance LHCH was rated ‘Outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission in September.

LHCH chief executive Jane Tomkinson said everyone at the hospital was ‘exceptionally proud’.

She said: “Neil is an excellent chairman and leader.

“He offers the hospital support, direction and unrivalled NHS experience gained over the course of almost half a century, whilst also placing the greatest emphasis on delivering compassionate care to all our patients and their families.

“We are delighted to see his continuing contribution and passion for the NHS acknowledged in this year’s honours.”

Neil has also been a non-executive director at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester for the past two years, which was also rated ‘Outstanding’ following their CQC inspection in October.

Richard Price - BEM

Richard Price (centre) has been awarded a British Empire Medal after 40 years of volunteering with Chester Samaritans

A Chester Samaritan who has gone ‘above and beyond’ for more than 40 years has received a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year's Honours.

Volunteer Richard Price, 69, has been honoured for services to Samaritans and the wider community of Chester.

In four decades he has been a director, day leader and outreach at the Chester and District branch of the charity.

Richard has also been a foster parent, volunteered for Barnardos as a bus driver and now helps his wife Ann as a volunteer puppy walker for Guide Dogs.

He said: “I am shocked but feel honoured that what I do has been recognised in this way.

“I have worked with many fantastic volunteers over the years and couldn’t have achieved everything without their support – thank you!”

Richard added he and Ann would be taking in a working Guide Dog for training in January.

After becoming director of the Chester branch in 1979, he introduced a regular presence of Samaritans at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Richard Price has been a Samaritans volunteer for more than 30 years

Despite 40 years of volunteering Richard is still actively involved in the ongoing training of Samaritan volunteers.

His next challenge is to lead a team of volunteers supporting listeners at the new Berwyn Prison in Wrexham.

As well as driving for Barnados, he was a voluntary bus driver for Stanney High School’s extra-curricular club before its closure.

Samaritans director Jane Howarth said: “I am constantly amazed by our volunteers and all they do, not just for Samaritans but in their wider community as well.

“Richard goes above and beyond giving his time and experience and we are delighted that he has been awarded the British Empire Medal.”

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